Sorry to say, I just read this article that confirms what I’ve believed all along, “Is Credit Card Debt the New Way to Survive in America?” It proves my point about how commerce has virtually co-opted life. Natural-human consciousness seems to have morphed into market-structured consciousness. (Coined by author Jay M. Handelman.)
The article reports the findings of a study done by Allianz Life, a Life Insurance Company:
“Over the last three decades, there has been a collective shift in how people view debt – it’s now perceived as a normal part of one’s financial experience and that has fundamentally altered the way people spend and save.”
And perhaps even more telling when the article concludes that, “Americans are relying on credit cards like food, water, fire, or shelter.”
A mind overtaken by the financial goals of commercial interests speaks to the concerted efforts and subsequent success of the marketing and public-relations industries. We have Edward Bernays, the father of public relations, to thank for fully igniting the mind of commerce.
Who was he?
Edward Bernays, 1891-1995, was the nephew to the well-known psychiatrist, Sigmund Freud. Like his uncle before him, Bernays believed in the predictability of the human unconscious as regarded the psychological and human motivations of self-preservation, security, aggression and sex. He transferred what he learned from his uncle to help launch his career in public relations. As a result, he succeeded in making bacon a mainstay of the traditional breakfast for the pork industry in 1915, smoking fashionable for women (by calling cigarettes “torches of freedom”) for the tobacco industry in the 1920’s, and fluoride indispensable to dentistry (a waste product of aluminum) for Alcoa Aluminum in the 1930’s.
He additionally used his talents to shape American public opinion when hired by the U.S. Government. In 1916, Bernays helped Woodrow Wilson win his second term as president using the slogan, ‘He kept us out of the war.” During World War I he continued to work under Woodrow Wilson’s administration as a member of the Committee on Public Information, the group credited with making popular the notion that World War I was entirely about the United States championing democracy for the countries of Europe.
His list of celebrity clients included President Calvin Coolidge, Procter & Gamble, CBS, NBC, the United Fruit Company, the American Tobacco Company, General Electric, Dodge Motors, the Hotel Association of New York City; the Waldorf-Astoria, the Celanese Corporation, Continental Baking Company, Philco, Westinghouse Electric Corporation and Time Inc., Clare Boothe Luce, and Samuel Goldwyn.
Bernays’ messaging mastery during wartime set the standard thereafter during times of peace. According to his daughter, her father was a believer in “enlightened despotism,” because he thought people were basically stupid, acting on a herd mentality. Fast forward, his impact lives on.
The human mind appears to respond willingly and instinctively to suggestions of how to think about something. When it relates to commerce and becomes popular, it is reflected as increased consumption even when to our own demise. Perhaps the biggest winner, in this regard, is the banking industry due to its superficial education about money and personal finance. Via mega-bucks-marketing campaigns aggressively employing emotional hooks to convince people their credit cards are indeed essential, banks win over both hearts and minds.
Those with the biggest marketing budgets win! Yet all the while the same financial industry that promotes credit cards operates within a global monetary system: the root cause of needing credit in the first place! If more people wanted to understand how money actually works (and works against them), there would be a huge outcry and demand for an honest system of money.
But I digress.
With just about every aspect of life captured, branded, and marketed (including religion and personal relationships), the top-of-mind question has become, “What’s in it for me?” However, this carefully developed and now pervasive market-structured consciousness is, in fact, a complete failure. Commerce will never replace the non-commercial truth of what it means to be human: to care, to love, to be cared for, and to be loved.
Long gone are the days when personal values would instead lead us to consider how to do unto another as we would be done by. But it is never too late to make this U-turn, starting first within ourselves and then as a collective.